One Big Family

Year: 1990
Riddim: Death in the Arena


Producer(s): George Phang
Writer(s): L. Roberts

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Est. year.

Half Pint recalls 'One Big Family'
Mel Cooke; Jamaica Gleaner

When Half Pint wrote and sang One Big Family, which eventually was the title of the 1990 album of the same name, Jamaica was in some ways returning to older times while at the same time adjusting to the inevitable changes of an increasingly globalised world.

The People's National Party was back in power with Michael Manley at the helm, ending the Jamaica Labour Party's stint after their 1980 landslide general election victory, which came after the near civil war of the late 1970s. The Sleng Teng rhythm of 1985 had changed the Jamaican music industry, ushering in an increased production of deejays, among other changes.

Song of unity

Into the political and social changes came Half Pint with a song of unity, looking back a few decades. As he put it, "The rivalry of the politics did start to die down, but the stigma was there.

"Overall, me grow with a more family background. Then the general way of how Jamaica was different from the Jamaica that I know from the 1960s, where every parent would grow a child, even neighbour. The balance we had, we had more confidence as children," Half Pint said.

"In the 1970s and '80s, when the political violence come up, we could remember the '60s.

"The song come up like if I can turn back the hands of the times and we come together as a family," Half Pint said.

So he sang, on a remake of the 'Death in The Arena' by Sly and Robbie with a 'wicked mix' by engineer David Rowe, that:

"We are one big family, inna dis ya country
We are one big family, living inna harmony."

And he rejoices "joy, joy to the word, joy to every boy and girl," and prescribes friendship among human beings "like roses need water".

Unification favourite

It is natural, then, that One Big Family has become a unification favourite, sometimes given the close-of-show treatment that has been accorded One Love. There was, however, a little concern from some of Half Pint's colleagues, as he called some names, but naturally, many had to be left out.

In the verse where he specifies members of the 'family', Half Pint speaks about George Phang, Bunny Wizzy, Peter Metro, Admiral Bailey, Josey Wales and Michael Palmer, ending "Junior Reid flashing it said speed".

"Me couldn't call everybody name,' Half Pint said, laughing, as he remembers that there were those who asked why they were not mentioned. He said those who made the list were among "the people who formulate in the music business around us".

Single did well

He said that as a single, distributed by Sonic Sounds, One Big Family did well. "I guess overall people just pick up on a Half Pint song in the 1980s," he said. And he says that the cover of the album was him in performance at Sting, with Derrick Barnett of Sagitarius Band and Isaiah Laing of Supreme Promotions in the background. "When yu look at it yu no see dem dat clear, but me know is dem," Half Pint said.

More important than the popularity in terms of units sold and chart placing, though, is the sentiment of unity which it fosters. "When One Big Family play it mean come forth an' dance to the tune," Half Pint said.

Nearly 20 years after it was first made, One Big Family will get a renewed lease on life, as it has been remade along with a rapper and another singer, who actually does a verse in Spanish. It will appear on Half Pint's next album, which will come hard on the heels of the recently released No Stress Express.

And Half Pint has just started a tour of the US West Coast and Hawaii, bringing the 'family' together once again.

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